Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, December 2, 2016

A few notable international marijuana reform headlines

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"The Case for Pot in the Age of Opioids: Legalizing medical marijuana could save lives that may otherwise be lost to opioid addiction."

ImrsThe title of this post is the headline of this U.S. News & World Report commentary on a topic that I hope continues to get more and more attention. Here is how the piece gets started (with links from the original):

Medical marijuana legalization won big this Election Day. Thanks to ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota, 26 states and Washington, D.C. now have medical marijuana laws. Four states also legalized recreational marijuana, adding to the national trend.

As states embrace pot, the federal government should follow suit and move toward legalizing medical marijuana nationwide to help save lives. In states where medical marijuana is legal, fewer lives are lost to opioid overdoses. Save lives by legally smoking weed? Yes.

Those in favor of marijuana legalization for medical use have strong evidence to support that marijuana is a useful treatment for many diseases. These include the treatment ofseizures, chronic pain and supportive care for those enduring cancer treatment.

Just as important, opioid overdose deaths dropped by approximately 25 percent in states that passed medical marijuana laws, compared to states that have not, according to Johns Hopkins' Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research. That's something we can't overlook.

Yet pharmaceutical companies want us to ignore this data. In states where medical marijuana is legal, fewer opioid prescriptions are written compared to states where marijuana is illegal. This means that fewer people are buying the opioid drugs that are so profitable to the pharmaceutical companies.

The number of people dying from opioid abuse in the United States has been steadily rising. We can estimate now that approximately 43,000 people will die in the United States from accidental overdoses this year, a number that has grown in the past decade.

Legalizing medical marijuana probably will save lives that would otherwise be lost to opioid abuse and addiction. And as more states move to legalize recreational marijuana, providing even greater access to the drug, one could argue opioid use may drop more.

The states clearly understand that marijuana has medical benefits. Now, we need to look beyond the states to change laws on a national level. Failing to do so will end lives that we likely could save. Most notably, marijuana needs to be removed from Schedule 1, so that it can be prescribed and researched more thoroughly.

December 1, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?

In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).

I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)

I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.

This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.

 

 

November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"U.S. Resident Population in States that Permit Medical or Recreational Marijuana Use"

Via email, I received news of this new accounting (with some typos) of reform states and their populations recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC.  In addition, the same folks previously produced a three-page Policy Brief headlined "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion"  which I promoted in this prior post titled "Highlighting the 'knowledge gap' as marijuana reform moves forward at a speedy pace"

Though I will not crunch the numbers here, the accounting of states and populations reveals that before last week, there were roughly 20 million Americans living in states which had passed full marijuana legalization by initiative.  Now, thanks to big states like California and Massachusetts and with a little help from Nevada and Maine, the number of Americans living in states that have passed full marijuana legalization has tripled to over 65 million.

November 15, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Previewing and tracking the 2016 marijuana initiative election results throughout the evening

American-pot-flagThis new Huffington Post article, headlined "9 States Are Voting On Marijuana On Election Day. Here’s Where They Stand Right Now," provides a relatively efficient and effective overview of all states to be watching for those concerning about state-by-state marijuana reform initiative developments. Arguments can be made that all five states voting on full recreation legalization are most important as a metric for the future of national reform, though I strongly believe the votes in all four medical marijuana states today should not be overlooked. Here is how the HuffPo piece sets up its state-by-state review:

Millions of voters across the United States are considering measures to roll back longstanding restrictions on marijuana this Election Day. By the end of Tuesday night, five more states could fully legalize weed, which would put nearly one-quarter of the nation’s population in areas that have rejected prohibition and decided to tax and regulate the plant. An additional four states are voting on whether to legalize marijuana for medical use. If approved, pot would become legal in some form in 29 states and Washington D.C.

Marijuana policy reformers say this could be a watershed moment for their movement. “Nov. 8 is the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement,” Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Big wins will dramatically accelerate our push to finally end federal marijuana prohibition, perhaps as soon as 2017.  But on the other hand, huge losses could interrupt the momentum we’ve been building for the last several years.”

I would be surprised if there is a consistent voting outcome throughout all the states, though I think is a near certainty that by the end the day a much larger number of Americans will be voting in favor of significant marijuana reforms today than at any other time in US history.   That reality alone, even if reform proposals end up losing in a number of states, ought to help propel the national marijuana reform movement forward.

Drilling down into state-by-state outcomes and their impact on the national reform conversation, I have lately come to think the pace of national/federal marijuana reform might ultimately be influenced even more by the vote today in (swing state) Florida concerning medical marijuana than by any of the five recreational state votes.  Then again, the recreational initiatives in California (as the biggest US state) and in Massachusetts (the biggest New England state) also are obviously very big deals for the likely future direction and structure of federal reforms.  And none of the votes in any of the other states are without national significance and consequence, especially when each vote can help increasing significantly the number of US Senators who are from states in which voters or local representatives have called for some form of marijuana legalization.

 Going through the states here by closing times (ET) provides one way to organize and track what reformers can follow most closely throughout the night:

Florida polls close at 7pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Amendment 2

Florida Results webpage

 

Maine polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 1

Maine Results webpage

 

Massachusetts polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 4

Massachusetts Results webpage

 

North Dakota polls close at 8pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Measure 5

North Dakota Results webpage

 

Arkansas polls close at 8:30pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Issue 6

Arkansas Results webpage

 

Arizona polls close at 9pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known a Proposition 205

Arizona Results webpage

 

Montana polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the medical marijuana reform known as Initiative 182

Montana Results webpage 

 

Nevada polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Question 2

Nevada Results webpage

 

California polls close at 10pm where folks are voting on the recreational marijuana reform known as Proposition 64

California Results webpage

November 8, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 7, 2016

"The Economic Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado"

The title of this post is the title of this recent report produced by the Marijuana Policy Group, which describes itself as a "non-affiliated entity dedicated to new market policy and analysis [seeking] to apply research methods rooted in economic theory and statistical applications to inform regulatory policy decisions in the rapidly growing legal medical and recreational marijuana markets." Here is part of the report's synopsis:

The Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) has constructed a new model that accurately integrates the legal marijuana industry into Colorado’s overall economy. It is called the “Marijuana Impact Model.”  

Using this model, the MPG finds that legal marijuana activities generated $2.39 billion in state output, and created 18,005 new FullTime-Equivalent (FTE) positions in 2015.  Because the industry is wholly confined within Colorado, spending on marijuana creates more output and employment per dollar spent than 90 percent of Colorado industries....

Legal marijuana demand is projected to grow by 11.3 percent per year through 2020.  This growth is driven by a demand shift away from the black market and by cannabis-specific visitor demand. By 2020, the regulated market in Colorado will become saturated.  Total sales value will peak near $1.52 billion dollars, and state demand will be 215.7 metric tons of flower equivalents by 2020. Market values are diminished somewhat by declining prices and “low-cost, high-THC” products.

In 2015, marijuana was the second largest excise revenue source, with $121 million in combined sales and excise tax revenues.  Marijuana tax revenues were three times larger than alcohol, and 14 percent larger than casino revenues. The MPG projects marijuana tax revenues will eclipse cigarette revenues by 2020, as cigarette sales continue to decline.  Marijuana tax revenues will likely continue increasing as more consumer demand shifts into the taxed adult-use market.

As a first-mover in legal marijuana, the Front Range has witnessed significant business formation and industry agglomeration in marijuana technology (cultivation, sales, manufacturing, and testing).  This has inspired a moniker for Colorado’s Front Range as the “Silicon Valley of Cannabis.”  Secondary marijuana industry activities quantified for the first time in this report include: warehousing, cash-management, security, testing, legal services, and climate engineering for indoor cultivations.

November 7, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Highlighting the "knowledge gap" as marijuana reform moves forward at a speedy pace

Via email, I received news of this effective new "Policy Brief" released recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC.  The title of this short document is "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion," and I especially appreciated its final section under the heading "Closing the Knowledge Gap." Here are excerpts from that section of this helpful document: 

Legalizing recreational marijuana is a far-reaching policy change. There is little research available on its potential effects on usage rates or public health and safety. This section highlights what government—state and federal— should do to close the knowledge gap.

The first priority is for data collection, performance monitoring, and analysis. States' regulatory structures should incorporate a feedback mechanism to track key performance metrics and conduct descriptive analyses of the operations of the market and its regulatory oversight system.

The second priority is for a sophisticated research agenda to explore the impact of legalization, including a focus on intended and unintended results of policy. The legal marijuana industry is new and a broad understanding of its functional dynamics are mostly unknown.

Research can provide state policy and program managers the answer to a number of questions, such as:

  • What model regulations should states adopt?...

  • How does marijuana use relate to other drug use—e.g., is it a substitute or complement to alcohol use? Opioid use?...

  • What is the environmental impact of legalization?

  • How do we test for marijuana use and what constitutes impairment?

  • How does marijuana use affect driving, workplace performance, and academic achievement?

  • How do new marijuana delivery systems (e.g., vaping) affect health and do they have other damaging consequences? What are the health effects of second hand smoke?

  • What is the impact of legalized marijuana on illegal markets? What is the impact on grey markets, where legal home grows of marijuana leak or are diverted into illegal markets?

  • What is the impact of the new marijuana industry on states’ gross domestic products?

  • How does the legalization of marijuana affect the social cost of illicit drug use?

November 3, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Learn in Italy about Comparative Drug Policy from the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy

As noted in this post last May, that Professor Sam Kamin of the University of Denver Sturm College had the unique honor to become, thanks to a law firm's endowment, the first Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy. And from Sam I have learned now that law students nationwide now have a unique opportunity to take a unique course from this unique profession in a special setting. Specifically, as this website details, on the Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy will be teaching a special Comparative Drug Policy course as part of the 2017 Denver Law Italy Program in Sorrento, Italy. Here is the official course description:

Comparative Drug Policy (Professor Sam Kamin, 2 credits)

This course will be an investigation of international drug prohibition and the emerging alternatives to it.  We will discuss the international agreements that govern the production and distribution of illicit drugs and the role the US played in creating these agreements.  We will then examine the growing international consensus that prohibition has not worked and look comparatively at the various alternatives to prohibition being adopted around the world.  We will also discuss various metrics for evaluating and assessing the growing number of alternatives to the status quo currently being developed.

October 25, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Disappointingly, New York Times editorial board tepidly notes how "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots"

Detail_of_a_new_york_times_advertisement_1895More than two years ago, as first reported here, this seemingly historic new New York Times editorial called for the legalization of marijuana under the bold headline "Repeal Prohibition, Again." At the time, I had thought this action by the Gray Lady's editorial board would mean that the marijuana reform movement would have a high-profile and powerful media champion and advocate.

Disappointingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), while the NY Times editorial board has been a a high-profile and powerful media voice on a number of other modern criminal justice reform issues, the Times editorial pages has been anything but bold (and has often just been silent) in the last two years on a wide range of notable state and federal marijuana reform issues. In 2016, for example, which has arguably been the most significant year (and after this election will be surely the most consequential year) in the modern history of the reform of state and federal marijuana laws (and which the New York Times has covered extensively as news), the NY Times editorial board until this week had put forward only one single editorial advocating for marijuana reforms.  (In telling contrast, the NY Times editorial board has had at least a dozen editorials advocating against forcefully capital punishment in 2016. )

 I would think that if the editorial board was still truly committed to its advocacy in 2014 that the US should "Repeal Prohibition, Again," that it would be saying a whole lot more on this topic during this critical year.  Against that backdrop, I am disappointed (but I suppose not too surprised) that this new New York Times editorial headlined "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots" is marked more by reporting than by advocacy. Here are excerpts:

People in nine states, including California, Florida and Massachusetts, will vote Nov. 8 on ballot proposals permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana. These initiatives could give a big push to legalization, prompting the next president and Congress to overhaul the country’s failed drug laws. This is a big moment for what was a fringe movement a few years ago. A Gallup poll released on Wednesday showed 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1969.

The drive to end prohibition comes after decades in which marijuana laws led to millions of people being arrested and tens of thousands sent to prison, a vast majority of whom never committed any violent crimes. These policies have had a particularly devastating effect on minority communities. Federal and state governments have spent untold billions of dollars on enforcement, money that could have been much better spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment.

So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states permit medical use. A recent Cato Institute study found that the states that have legalized recreational use have so far had no meaningful uptick in the use of marijuana by teenagers, or other negative consequences predicted by opponents. For example, in Colorado, drug-related expulsions and suspensions from schools have gone down in recent years. There has been no spike in drug-related traffic accidents and fatalities in Colorado or Washington.

On Election Day, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will consider proposals to allow recreational use. In California, which approved medical use in 1996, polls show that the measure is likely to win. In Massachusetts, a recent poll showed 55 percent of likely voters supporting legalization. In Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, residents will vote on medical marijuana. If Florida voters say yes, other Southern states that have been resistant to liberalizing drug laws could reconsider their prohibitions, too.

Passage of these proposals should increase pressure on the federal government to change how it treats marijuana. The Obama administration has chosen not to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states like Colorado and Washington. But this bizarre situation can’t last — even as more states legalize the drug, state-licensed marijuana businesses remain criminal operations under federal law. Even if they are not prosecuted by the federal government, this conflict in their legal status creates immense problems....

States are driving the change in marijuana policy because they see the damage created by draconian drug laws on communities, families and state budgets. It’s time the federal government acknowledged these costs and got out of the way of states adopting more rational laws.

When I saw the headline for this editorial --- which, as I suggested before, seems to be mostly a report of reality and fails to do much editorializing --- I at least expected it to mention and link to the New York Times' prior 2014 editorial calling for the US to "Repeal Prohibition, Again." I do not believe that the New York Times has changed its editorial stance on this front, but they seem now almost intent to make sure nobody remembers their bold advocacy two years ago.

Moreover, this "editorial," while seemingly eager to note that "negative consequences predicted by opponents" of reform have not materialized, entirely fails to note or highlights that all of the positive consequences predicted by supporters of marijuana reform have come to pass: huge new tax revenues are being collected, economic development has been considerable, arrest rates have gone down dramatically, and adults have safe and legal access to their preferred medicine or recreational drug. Simply saying at the end here that the federal government should get "out of the way of states adopting more rational laws" (which the Obama Administration has largely done, though Congress could and should do it more formally) is about the weakest tea support for reform I could imagine.

I suppose that when a paper's nickname is the "Gray Lady," I was foolish to expect or hope it would act or advocate like even a young smart conservative advocate (whom polls show support medical marijuana reform 10 to 1 and full marijuana reform 3 to 1). Still, I feel now as though the 2014 editorial headline really should have been "Repeal Prohibition, Again.... but do not expect the Gray Lady to really try to help make that happen anytime soon."

October 20, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Gallup poll finds record high support for marijuana legalization

Uu5e1ycj_kqf1dim_mvmewThis new Gallup item, headlined "Support for Legal Marijuana Use Up to 60% in U.S," details the results of its latest annual poll on marijuana opinion.  Here are the highlights:

With voters in several states deciding this fall whether to legalize the use of marijuana, public support for making it legal has reached 60% -- its highest level in Gallup's 47-year trend....

When Gallup first asked this question in 1969, 12% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana use.  In the late 1970s, support rose to 28% but began to retreat in the 1980s during the era of the "Just Say No" to drugs campaign.  Support stayed in the 25% range through 1995, but increased to 31% in 2000 and has continued climbing since then.

In 2013, support for legalization reached a majority for the first time after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  Since then, a majority of Americans have continued to say they think the use of marijuana should be made legal.  Today's 60% is statistically similar to the previous high of 58% reached in 2013 and 2015, so it is unclear whether support has stabilized or is continuing to inch higher.

Support for legalizing marijuana use has increased among most subgroups in the past decade, but more so among certain groups than others.  For example, support is up 33 percentage points to 77% among adults aged 18 to 34, while it is up 16 points among adults aged 55 and older to 45%....

Additionally, support is up more among independents and Democrats than it is among Republicans, partly because of the older age skew of the last group.  Seventy percent of independents and 67% of Democrats support legal pot use, a major increase since the combined survey of 2003 and 2005 when 46% of independents and 38% of Democrats supported the idea.  While less than a majority of members in any political party backed legalizing marijuana in 2003 and 2005, Democrats and independents have fueled the recent nationwide surge in support. Republicans' support has doubled from more than a decade ago, yet only 42% of GOP members now support legal marijuana use.

If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the "Golden State" often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S. As more states legalize marijuana, the question of whether the drug should be legal may become when it will be legal.  The transformation in public attitudes about marijuana over the past half-century has mirrored the liberalization of public attitudes about gay rights and the same-sex-marriage movement, the latter of which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed legal last year. It is possible that it might take a Supreme Court case to settle this matter, too.

October 19, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Pew polling shows record high public support for recreational marijuana legalization

FT_16.10.11_marijuanaLegal_trendThe Pew Research Center has this new posting headlined "Support for marijuana legalization continues to rise," reporting on the results of its latest polling. Here are the particulars:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use.

Young adults have disproportionately driven the shift toward public support of the drug, though support is rising among other generations as well. Millennials – those ages 18 to 35 in 2016 – are more than twice as likely to support legalization of marijuana as they were in 2006 (71% today, up from 34% in 2006), and are significantly more likely to support legalization than other generations.

Support for marijuana legalization has also increased among members of Generation X and Baby Boomers (ages 36-51 and 52-70 in 2016, respectively). More than half of Gen Xers (57%) support legalization, a considerable jump from just 21% in 1990. A majority of Boomers (56%) also support legalization, up from just 17% in 1990.

The Pew Research Center survey, conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 U.S. adults, also finds persistent partisan and ideological divides in public opinion on marijuana legalization. By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

Republicans are internally divided over marijuana legalization. By a wide margin (63% to 35%), moderate and liberal Republicans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. By contrast, 62% of conservative Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana use, while just 33% favor it. The differences among Democrats are more modest. Liberal Democrats are 23 percentage points more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to favor legalization (78% vs. 55%).

As past Pew Research Center surveys have found, Hispanics are less supportive of legalizing marijuana than are whites or blacks. Hispanics are divided – 49% say the use of marijuana should be illegal, while 46% say it should be legal. Identical majorities of whites and blacks (59% each) favor marijuana legalization.

I do not find the age-based and party-based polling particulars to be at all surprising, but I do find it quite notable and interesting that this poll suggests Latinos are slightly more likely to oppose than support marijuana legalization. I suspect that this finding could and would be even more interesting and telling if the Latino responses were broken down further by age, as I suspect older Latinos might continue to recall and fear the anti-Mexican/Latino biases that were integral to a whole lot of anti-marijuana policies and rhetoric until very recently.

The interesting Pew Center finding about Latino views on marijuana legalization also provides still further reasons to pay particular attention this election cycle to the marijuana reform ballot initiatives in states like Arizona and California and Florida. In addition to wondering whether exit polling in those states might confirm the likelihood of large blocks of Latino voters ending up on the "no" side of reforms, the traditionally different Latino origins that distinguish Latino population in different states might reveal still further deep insights into whether there are actually an array of distinct policy views on these issues among distinct groups of Latinos.

October 13, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Effective snapshot of marijuana reform debate and polling four weeks before (game-changing?) 2016 election

The Atlantic has this effective new piece that provide an astute "at this moment" perspective on marijuana reform developments and the coming election sure to impact them.  The piece is headlined "Marijuana's Moment: As many as five states could approve its recreational use this November, potentially signaling a point of no return for legalized pot," and it merits a full read.  Here are excerpts:

Recreational marijuana users can now legally light up a joint in states representing about 5 percent of the U.S. population. By the time Americans wake up on November 9, that percentage could be swelling to more than one-quarter.  Measures to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis are on the ballot in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada, and recent polls show the “yes” vote is winning in all five states. Approval would mark the biggest advance yet for advocates in the decades-long fight over legalizing marijuana—one that they believe could ultimately force the federal government to end its prohibition of the drug.

“On November 8, you can safely say we’ve reached the tipping point if these go our way,” said Tom Angell, founder of the group Marijuana Majority.  The most important battleground is California, where advocates expect voters to approve personal use of pot six years after they defeated a similar measure.  Support for Proposition 64 is polling at nearly 60 percent, and the measure has drawn support from leading politicians and newspapers that opposed it in 2010, including Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.  The leading candidate for California’s open Senate seat, Kamala Harris, predicted Wednesday that voters would approve the law, although as the state’s attorney general she can’t formally take a position....

Beyond California, slimmer majorities of voters are backing full legalization in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Maine.  In Nevada, polls have been mixed, with one in September showing strong support for passage and a more recent survey suggesting voters are split.....

Legalization advocates are trying to replicate their successes from 2012 and 2014, when voters sanctioned recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington D.C.  But they are facing a better-organized opposition this year led by the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which has argued that the proposed laws are creating another “Big Tobacco,” but for marijuana.  They say these laws are industry-backed initiatives that allow companies to market pot to children just like cigarette companies did for decades.  “This is not about marijuana,” said Kevin Sabet, the president of SAM.  He travels around the country warning that ballot measures legalizing marijuana are dangerously lax and written by an industry that wants to hook kids on pot lollipops and other “cannabis candy.”

“This is about a small amount of people making a lot of money,” he said.  “This is not about personal liberty.”  That’s especially true, Sabet argued, in California, where medical marijuana is famously easy to obtain and where recreational use hasn’t been considered a felony for 40 years.  The drive to legalize, then, is all about business.

Sabet also disputes the idea that November will be a tipping point for marijuana legalization if the ballot measures in California and elsewhere prevail.  “This is a very long game,” he said.  “This is not going to be determined once and for all either this November or in November of 2018.”  Sabet said there is already a backlash building in local communities in states that have legalized pot, spurred by rising rates of marijuana use and a spike in traffic fatalities linked to stoned drivers.

Sabet was speaking to me from an airport after leading seven rallies over two days against the California ballot measure. “California is much closer than we’re hearing about,” he argued.  “It’s a coin flip in all of the states right now.”  As Sabet sees it, the burden is lower for opponents of a ballot initiative like marijuana legalization to convince voters to go their way.  “With ‘no,’ you just have to put a little bit of doubt in people’s minds, and they are movable,” he told me.  “The more we get our message across, the more people change their minds from ‘yes’ to ‘no.’”

That’s a dynamic that worries Angell, a 15-year veteran of the legalization fight.  He launched the Marijuana Majority in 2012 as a way of broadcasting the breadth of public support for the movement....   Though Marijuana Majority touts polls showing that 88 percent of voters nationwide support medical marijuana and 58 percent back full legalization, Angell is not as confident as [others] about a broad victory in November.   Support for ballot measures typically drops in the run-up to an election, he notes.  And while supporters of legal pot are outspending opponents, he worries about the movement’s version of an “October surprise” — a rumored move by the casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson to pour millions into last-minute ads against ballot measures in Nevada and Florida.  “I am very concerned about where we are in a number of these states right now,” Angell said. “It’s a little too close for comfort.”

In addition to the full legalization measures, voters in four other states — Florida, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas — are considering laws approving medical marijuana.  Supporters are confident about their chances in Florida but are less certain in Montana and North Dakota, where there has been little polling on the issue. They are most concerned about Arkansas because there are two medical-marijuana measures on the ballot — one supported by the legalization movement and another that is considerably narrower and more restrictive. “There’s a concern that voters will simply vote their favorite medical-marijuana measure and split the vote,” Angell said....

Another worry, Angell said, is complacency and overconfidence among marijuana advocates.  Contrary to Sabet’s claims, he complained that the marijuana industry was not contributing enough to the legalization drive — and indeed, the medical-marijuana community in California is reportedly divided over the ballot measure in part because small growers view it as a boon to big business, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The California Growers Association, for example, decided to stay neutral on the proposal. “There’s almost this sense that marijuana will legalize itself, that we’ve already won,” Angell said. If victories this year could put legalization on a nationwide path, losses would be a momentum killer. “A lot,” he admitted, “is riding on this.”

October 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

"Are Religious People Less Likely to Support Marijuana Legalization?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this interesting article reporting on some interesting new research.  Here are the details:

People who believe that the Bible should be taken as the literal word of God may be much less likely to support the legalization of marijuana than those who believe the Bible is a book of moral fables, according to a new study.

The study found that people who reported in national surveys that they believed that the Bible is God's word were 58 percent less likely to also say they support marijuana legalization, compared with people who thought the Bible is a book of fables and should not be taken literally. In addition, the more frequently that people attended religious services, the less likely they were to support marijuana legalization, the study found.

However, the extent to which people considered themselves to be religious was not a significant predictor of their views on marijuana legalization, said study author Daniel Krystosek, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Nevada. The results show that the relationship between people's religiousness and their views on marijuana legalization is complex, according to the study, published Sept. 3 in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice [available here].

In the study, Krystosek pooled data from three years of national surveys that included a total of about 3,800 people in the U.S.  The surveys were conducted in 2006, 2008 and 2010 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.  The surveys included questions about whether people thought that marijuana should be legal.  The surveys also asked how often people attended religious services, to what extent they considered themselves to be religious, how often they prayed, and whether they thought that the Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally or whether it is an ancient book of fables that should not be interpreted literally....

In the study, he also found that people with conservative political views were about 53 percent less likely to support marijuana legalization, compared with people with liberal views.  People who had moderate views were 37 percent less likely to support marijuana legalization, compared with people with liberal views....

The older the people in the study, the less likely they were to support marijuana legalization. "As people get older, they start families, and many parents do not want their children experimenting with drugs," Krystosek wrote in the study. "Therefore, they might oppose the legalization of marijuana."

September 30, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Religion, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Obama’s Opioid Offensive Again Ignores the Cannabis Solution"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent commentary authored by Don Fitch over at Marijuana Politics.  Here are excerpts (with links and emphasis from the original):

Startled by high numbers of American deaths from opioids, the Obama administration’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch has again declared an offensive. Her plan of action: alert the 94 federal prosecutors to gear up for more of the same war on drugs.  This time, physicians who oversubscribe opioids (in the DEA’s suspicions at least), are prime targets. Yet again, no thought was given to harnessing  medical cannabis as a far safer alternative.

The epidemic of opioid addiction and death should be resetting the war on drugs. The statistics are harsh: from the year 2000 to the present, opioids deaths have quadrupled, to over 28,000 per year. Deaths (usually suffocation) from opioids now outnumber automobile fatalities.  Americans opioid users are so numerous, they now have their own new pharmaceutical drug for counteracting an opioid side effect.  Read about it in MarijuanaPolictics.com, at “Opioid-Induced Constipation”: Big Pharma More Interested in Treating Your Bowel Movements Than Saving Your Life.

 Regarding the drug war in general, the supremely ludicrous truth is that now drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high. Is this an acceptable outcome for a 45 year, trillion-dollar war on drugs? For this colossal failure, the DEA should be bum-rushed out the door.  Instead, we are now essentially offered more of the same war on drugs by an oblivious Department of Justice and Obama administration.

Especially in the context of the opioid crisis, marijuana is a medicine that is saving lives. Cannabis can help prevent, weaken, and even end opioid addictions. Cannabis-based solutions to the opioid problem are becoming more and more obvious to everyone except the drug warriors.  Increasingly, headlines shout the connection:

With this avalanche of insight that medical cannabis is a viable solution to opioid addiction and death, it is puzzling that Obama’s initiatives have ignored this resource.  But yet again the president gives the Justice Department the lead role in intervening in what is basically a public health problem.  Joining the prosecutors were representatives of addiction recovery services, a group notoriously dishonest about cannabis.

Nowhere to be seen nor heard were advocates of medical cannabis as preventatives and far safer pain relief alternatives to addictive and death-inducing opioids.  Apparently, the administration finds it politically incorrect to even consider medical marijuana as a solution for anything....

The Obama administration’s strict politically correct anti-marijuana line is blatantly anti-science and wounding to public health. And it is no longer even politically correct.  A majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal for all adults; an overwhelming majority feel cannabis should legal medically.  The Obama administration, most of the Congress, and self-serving bureaucracies such as the DEA are decades behind the American public.  Their obsolete and dishonest approach will lead to more American lives lost to opioid addiction and death.

 

September 26, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Effective review of the nine state with marijuana initiatives going to voters this November

International Business Times has this up-to-date article, headlined "Marijuana Legalization 2016 Ballot: Which States Are Voting On Cannabis Laws On Election Day?," providing an effective review of where and what voters will be considering as to marijuana reform in numerous states. Here are the basics:

More than 82 million U.S. residents will have the chance to cast ballots on marijuana measures when they go to vote for president come Election Day in November. Marijuana laws – whether it be to legalize or decriminalize – have been added to the ballot in nine states. Here's everything you need to know about the marijuana proposals voters will decide on come Nov. 8.

Arizona – Under the guidelines of Proposition 205, or Arizona’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative, adults 21 and up would be allowed to possess and recreationally use one ounce or less of marijuana....

Arkansas – The Natural State is set to vote on two marijuana measures: Arkansas Issue 7 Medical Cannabis Statute and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Issue 6. If the majority of residents vote “yes” for Issue 6, then medical marijuana will be legal and a dispensary and cultivation license fees will receive a cap....

California – Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64, also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize recreational weed and hemp for people 21 and older....

Florida – Amendment 2 legalizes medical marijuana for patients suffering from specific debilitating diseases including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis....

Maine – Question 1 (2016) would legalize recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, which has allowed legal medical marijuana since 1999.

Massachusetts – Question 4 would fully legalize marijuana with regulations similar to the state’s approach to alcoholic beverages....

Montana – Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative I-182 is an amendment to the already-passed Montana Medical Marijuana Act. Should the new measure pass, the current medical marijuana laws will be adjusted to allow more patients access to medical marijuana....

Nevada – People 21 and older would be able to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes under Nevada’s Question 2.

North Dakota – Initiated Statutory Measure 5 gives patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, ALS, and glaucoma and epilepsy access to medical marijuana with a specific identification card.

September 24, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Are all opponents of marijuana reform ultimately suspicious and critical of capitalism and free markets?

The question in the title of this post came to my mind as I started heading this morning the great book I first flagged here at my sentencing blog: Harvard historian Lisa McGirr's The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.  The start of the book highlights how many early alcohol Prohibitionist were much more troubled by and focused on the "liquor trade" and "liquor trafficking" rather than just individuals drinking.  

I see, of course, a huge parallel in this sense to the leading modern anti-marijuana-reform group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), which repeatedly claims that its advocacy is not driven by support for blanket marijuana prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions, but rather is just concerned about the creation of a legal "Big Marijuana" industry.  As SAM explains here at its website

People often ask us what our biggest fear of legalization is.  The answer is simple: Big Pot....

The tobacco and alcohol industries follow similar patterns while hawking their legal, addictive substances. And we know how that story ends: money-hungry industries, targeting the vulnerable, will stop at nothing to increase addiction and profit. Why on earth would we want to repeat that debacle with cannabis?

I bring this up because I have long said and long believed that my affinity for and support of marijuana reform is part of a "conservative" commitment not only to personal liberty but also to capitalism and free markets. Though I fully understand and respect concerns about the long-term political and practical impact of "Big Marijuana" (and/or Big Pharma and/or Big Oil and/or Big Google), I still firmly believe the long-term political and practical impact of Big Government is and should be more worrisome at least to those who are fans of capitalism and free markets.  Ergo, I think it is fair to at least suggest that all opponents of marijuana reform (and even a good number of marijuana reform supporters) are likely fundamentally suspicious and critical of capitalism and free markets.

September 23, 2016 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Appreciating the northeastern midwest's magical medical marijuana research opportunities

Corporate_mapAs marijuana reform advocates (and perhaps regular readers) know, 2016 has been something of a banner year for medical marijuana reform in key part of the northern midwest.  Specifically,

--- in April, Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor signed into law the Keystone State's new medical marijuana law (basics here);

--- in June, Ohio's Republican Governor signed into law the Buckeye State's new medical marijuana law (basics here); and

--- in September, as reported here, Michigan's Republican Governor signed into law new medical marijuana regulations.

As a number of folks know, these three states are always interesting to watch and study politically and practically on an array of issues for an array of reasons.  Pennsylvania is at once an urban east-coast state around Philadelphia, an urban midwest state around Pittsburgh, and a rural state in between.  Ohio is the ultimate bellwether state with urban, suburban and rural, northern and southern regions and populations that closely mirror many national realities.  And Michigan likewise has a diverse array of distinctive regions (and, in this context, has a considerable history of a legal but largely unregulated medical marijuana industry).

I could go on and on about why each of these states with their own distinctive (and still developing) medical marijuana laws justify close study individually.  But my point in this post is to highlight the unique and uniquiely important research opportunity presented by the fact that all three of these (connected) states have new and detailed medical marijuana regulations coming on line at roughly the same time.  In particular, I am hopeful that some of the independent research entities following marijuana reform developments closely (e.g., the Brookings Institution and the Rand Corporation) will give particular attention in the months and years ahead to these particular democratic laboratories.

September 22, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Medical Marijuana Laws and Tobacco Use"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new empirical paper authored by Anna Choi, Dhaval Dave and Joseph Sabia now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This study comprehensively examines whether medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have affected the trajectory of a decades-long decline in adult tobacco use in the United States.  Using data from three large national datasets — the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements (CPS-TUS), and the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) — we estimate the relationship between MMLs and cigarette consumption.

Our results show that the enactment of MMLs between 1990 and 2012 are associated with a 0.3 to 0.7 percentage-point reduction in tobacco consumption among US adults, though this estimate is somewhat sensitive to controls for state-specific linear time trends.  These findings suggest that tobacco and marijuana are substitutes for many users.  However, this average response masks heterogeneity in the effects of MMLs among early versus late-adopting states and across the age distribution.

September 20, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cato Institute releases new policy analysis on marijuana legalization providing a "Dose of Reality"

I am very pleased to see the release of this lengthy new policy analysis published by the Cato institute under the title "Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations." Here is its executive summary:

In November 2012 voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Two years later, Alaska and Oregon followed suit.  As many as 11 other states may consider similar measures in November 2016, through either ballot initiative or legislative action.

Supporters and opponents of such initiatives make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalization. Advocates think legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, bolsters traffic safety, and stimulates the economy.  Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement.  Systematic evaluation of these claims, however, has been largely absent.

This paper assesses recent marijuana legalizations and related policies in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

Our conclusion is that state marijuana legalizations have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes.  We cannot rule out small effects of legalization, and insufficient time has elapsed since the four initial legalizations to allow strong inference.  On the basis of available data, however, we find little support for the stronger claims made by either opponents or advocates of legalization. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.

September 19, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Legal Cannabis in the US: Not Whether But How?"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new paper authored by Sam Kamin. Here is the abstract:

The 2016 election promises to be a turning point in the history of marijuana regulation in this country.  Although the federal prohibition on all marijuana conduct remains in place, twenty-five states plus the District of Columbia currently authorize the medical use of marijuana and four states plus D.C. have legalized marijuana use by all adults.  Many more states are expected to vote on marijuana law reform this fall and these numbers are almost certain to grow; the end of federal marijuana prohibition may soon be close at hand.

But it is important to remember that federal drug policy – like the state-level drug reform that has preceded it – is not an all-or-nothing choice.  Federal lawmakers will not choose between the current system under which marijuana is prohibited in all circumstances and for all purposes and a world in which there are no limits placed on how marijuana is produced, distributed, and consumed.  

My goal in this essay is to describe the current, tenuous status of marijuana under state and federal law and then to investigate the various alternatives to prohibition available to federal lawmakers seeking to reform the nation’s marijuana laws.  I situate these alternatives on a continuum between the current federal prohibition and a relatively free market model similar to that in place in a state like Colorado.  Each of these models will have pluses and minuses and it is important that lawmakers firmly establish their goals in moving away from the prohibition of marijuana; winners and losers will be chosen in this area far sooner than many realize.

September 14, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)